Robert Saunders Profile picture
Author of "Yes to Europe! The 1975 Referendum & Seventies Britain". "A jaw-dislocating page turner"(Andrew Marr). Co-director @MileEndInst, Reader @QMHistory
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Sep 30, 2018 7 tweets 2 min read
An interesting thread from @election_data, which poses an important question: is Labour wrong to believe that it can bank the Remain vote while switching its attention to Tory Leavers? The figures here suggest that it is. I’m not so sure. 1/7 There's no doubt that Labour's willingness to sit on its hands over Brexit has seen it bleed support among Remainers. According to Opinium, its anaemic polling performance is "primarily a result of losing favour amongst Remainers". But would this hold in a general election? 2/7
Sep 22, 2018 4 tweets 2 min read
"Better to lose a little national sovereignty than a son or a daughter" (1975). Worth remembering, amidst all the bloviating about Brexit, WW2 and the Blitz Spirit in today's papers. Margaret Thatcher put it aptly in 1975: peace means "being prepared to live our lives together, in becoming so enmeshed through trade and co-operation that to turn on one another would be unthinkable and impossible".
Sep 17, 2018 5 tweets 2 min read
Leaders' debates are a bad idea & encourage all the worst trends in UK politics: presidentialisation, the cult of personality ("Cleggmania"?), the reduction of parliamentary parties to fandoms for their leaders and the mistaking of fluency/"authenticity" for statecraft. #NoThanks These presidential-style debates also raise yet another barrier to new entrants/smaller parties, at a time of widespread disillusionment with the Big Two. You either shut out the Greens/LDs/UKIP/SNP/Plaid Cymru etc, or the format becomes hopelessly unwieldy.
Sep 11, 2018 7 tweets 2 min read
Just read yet another appalling academic article on Brexit, blaming every possible form of bigotry without ever descending to the realm of evidence. With honourable exceptions, academia has spectacularly failed to meet the intellectual challenge of the Leave vote. [THREAD] 1/7 Like most academics, I strongly backed Remain & would do so again in a heartbeat. That's not a problem, so long as we are intellectually curious about people who think differently. We do this routinely in all kinds of other fields. 2/7
Sep 10, 2018 4 tweets 1 min read
It is a dangerous moment for any institution - whether a church, a political party or a country - when it decides that its proud history lifts it above criticism. [Short thread] 1/4 Is Labour "institutionally racist"? I'm hardly qualified to judge. But the charge comes from an alarmingly wide range of voices, & a progressive party should want to debate this urgently & think about how to do better. Instead, Lab is dishing out the usual punishment beating. 2/4
Sep 4, 2018 12 tweets 3 min read
Of the various journalists who back the Corbyn project, @paulmasonnews is much the most interesting and substantial. But I was struck by two passages in his recent @NewStatesman piece, which speak to some of the concerns many of us feel about Labour's new direction. 1/12 First up: this is what Mason had to say about “Wreathgate”, which “Corbyn and his team have handled .. with aplomb”. 2/12
Sep 2, 2018 7 tweets 2 min read
The idea that the SDP/Alliance split the "Labour vote" in the 1980s and kept Thatcher in Number 10 is one of the enduring fantasies of the British Left. And like all such fantasies, it encourages bad political choices. 1/6 [THREAD] First problem: it's a comforting myth that stops Lab thinking about its own failings. Instead of asking why barely 1/4 of the electorate in 1983 backed a party in the grip of the hard Left, it blames defeat on traitors & quislings - always the favoured response of that wing. 2/6
Aug 30, 2018 6 tweets 4 min read
@AnthonyBarnett @bungatuffie Thanks. I agree that "postcolonial melancholia" is a more sophisticated concept than the uses which are often made of it. (The "post-imperial hungering for renewed greatness", for example, seems as strong in the rhetoric of "leading in Europe" as it does in the case for leaving). @AnthonyBarnett @bungatuffie The legacies of empire do seem to me to be important in Britain's road to Brexit, but I think "imperial nostalgia" too blunt a tool. So I'm trying to trace the ways in which both sides think "post-colonially", & how that has warped the hopes as well as fears vested in membership.
Aug 22, 2018 9 tweets 2 min read
Good piece by @Dannythefink. "Peterloo was a tragedy, an outrage and an emblem of the repressive obstinacy of a privileged elite. What it was not, was a turning point in British history. You can argue that it should have been ... But it wasn’t."… 2. That’s not to belittle Peterloo: it’s an important counter to self-congratulatory visions of British history, in which a wise and benevolent elite carefully steered the population to political maturity – a domestic version of a story also told about the empire.
Jul 24, 2018 5 tweets 2 min read
There are some decent ideas here, but a howling void on the single biggest threat to UK manufacturing: a Brexit that rips firms out of Continental supply chains, imposes tariffs and delays at the border, and discourages investment in Britain as a gateway to the EU. [1/4] On Brexit, the speech offers the usual fantasies & cake-ism. Labour will leave the *actual* Customs Union and replace it with “a new, comprehensive customs union" of its own invention, with all "the same benefits we currently enjoy" but without the bits Mr Corbyn dislikes. [2/4]
Jul 19, 2018 4 tweets 3 min read
As Labour prepares to discipline @margarethodge, here's a post I wrote in April on the culture of complacency, victim-blaming and self-congratulation that has marked the party's response to #Antisemitism.… Too often, Labour has tried to silence those who complain rather than challenge the existence of abuse.
Jun 19, 2018 6 tweets 3 min read
Anyone who thinks Northern Ireland has killed off a hard Brexit is looking at the wrong numbers.… Two-thirds of Leave voters and two-thirds of Conservatives would prefer a hard border in Ireland to staying in the Customs Union.…
Jun 12, 2018 9 tweets 2 min read
*Clears throat* Perhaps I can help? [THREAD] 1/9 Despite all the bloviating in the tabloids, what Parliament is debating today is not *whether* we leave the EU. It’s *how* - and who decides our future relationship with Europe. 2/9
Mar 4, 2018 12 tweets 3 min read
One of the stranger assumptions of the Brexit debate was that we live in an age of permanently low tariffs, guaranteed by a liberal world trading order. It’s indicative of a wider problem in UK politics: the near-total absence of historical & prudential considerations. [1/12] When Britain joined the EEC, in 1973, the world looked very different. A liberal trading order based on the Bretton Woods System had collapsed. The world seemed to be breaking up into hostile trading blocs, which, like OPEC, could use their power to devastating effect. [2/12]